The UK’s first 24/7 crisis text service for bereaved children and young people goes live today.
The Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger text service is a free, confidential, anonymous text line available for children and young people experiencing a mental health crisis following the death of someone close, and who find themselves feeling unable to cope and in need of urgent support.
The death of a parent or sibling is one of the most traumatic situations a young person can face, and the effects of losing a loved one can be profound, with consequences for mental and physical health but also social and educational impacts, including an increased risk of under-achieving or even dropping out of school, of being bullied, and of premature death.
The festive period can be a particularly painful and difficult time for young people when someone close has died, and with approximately 41,000 children/young people being parentally bereaved each year, more than 100 will experience the death of a parent on Christmas Day alone.
The Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger text service, which is powered by trusted partners Shout (brought to the UK by The Royal Foundation) and Crisis Text Line, can be accessed by texting WW to 85258, and will be accessible at any time of day, on every day of the year, including Christmas Day. By texting this number the person in crisis will be connected to a trained crisis volunteer who, through a completely anonymous text conversation, will de-escalate the person from a place of crisis to a place of calm.
By asking questions, listening and responding with support, the trained volunteer will help the person in crisis to sort through their feelings until they reach a calm and safe place. They will help the person to think more clearly, and enable them to know that they can take the next step to feeling better. They might also signpost to other services that can provide further help and continued support.
The service can help with urgent issues such as:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Abuse or assault
- Relationship issues
Fergus Crow, CEO of Winston’s Wish, says: ‘Losing someone close to you is utterly devastating and it’s essential that anyone who has been bereaved gets the right support, at the right time. Sometimes that might mean late at night or in the early hours, or in a situation when speaking to someone isn’t feasible. The Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger text service is available 24/7 and is completely confidential and free of charge – and so we would urge anyone who has been bereaved and finds themselves having a mental health crisis to contact us so that we may help them.’
Winston’s Wish Young Ambassador, Zoe Bassett, 22, received support from Winston’s Wish when she was aged 8 years old – five years after the death of her father. ‘As a bereaved young person, it’s really reassuring to know that you won’t have to suffer in silence, and that when you think there isn’t anyone to talk to, there will be,’ Zoe shares.
If you are suffering due to a bereavement and need urgent help right now, please text WW to 85258.
If a person’s life is at imminent risk, they would always be encouraged to contact 999. The service is completely anonymous – although if the volunteer believes the texter in crisis is at immediate risk of harm, they may share their details with the emergency services, who may dispatch a wellness check. In cases when a texter is in immediate danger of suicide or homicide, as determined by a risk assessment by the crisis volunteer and supervisor, the first step is to try to work with the texter to form a safety plan. If the texter is unable to plan for their own safety, the supervisor may contact emergency services, who may dispatch a wellness check.